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My Take: It’s time for Islamophobic evangelicals to choose
September 15th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

My Take: It’s time for Islamophobic evangelicals to choose

Editor's Note: Brian D. McLaren  is author of "Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World" (Jericho Books/Hachette Book Group). 

By Brian McLaren, Special to CNN

I was raised as an evangelical Christian in America, and any discussion of Christian-Jewish-Muslim relations around the world must include the phenomenon of American Islamophobia, for which large sectors of evangelical Christianity in America serve as a greenhouse.

At a time when U.S. embassies are being attacked and when people are getting killed over an offensive, adolescent and puerile film targeting Islam - beyond pathetic in its tawdriness – we must begin to own up to the reality of evangelical Islamaphobia.

Many of my own relatives receive and forward pious-sounding and alarm-bell-ringing e-mails that trumpet (IN LOTS OF CAPITAL LETTERS WITH EXCLAMATION POINTS!) the evils of Islam, that call their fellow evangelicals and charismatics to prayer and “spiritual warfare” against those alleged evils, and that often - truth be told - contain lots of downright lies.

For example, one recent e-mail claimed “Egyptian Christians in Grave Danger as Muslim Brotherhood Crucifies Opponents."  Of course, that claim has been thoroughly debunked, but the sender’s website still (as of Friday) claims that the Muslim Brotherhood has “crucified those opposing" Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy "naked on trees in front of the presidential palace while abusing others.”

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Many sincere and good-hearted evangelicals have never yet had a real Muslim friend, and now they probably never will because their minds have been so prejudiced by Islamophobic broadcasts on so-called Christian television and radio.

Janet Parshall, for example, a popular talk show host on the Moody Radio Network, frequently hosts Walid Shoebat, a Muslim-evangelical convert whose anti-Muslim claims, along with claims about his own biography, are frequently questioned.  John Hagee, a popular televangelist, also hosts Shoebat as an expert on Islam, as does the 700 Club.

Many Christian bookstores that (used to) sell my books, still sell books such as Paul Sperry’s "Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington" (Thomas Nelson, 2008). In so doing, they fuel conspiracy theories such as the ones U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, promoted earlier this year.

In recent days, we’ve seen how irresponsible Muslim media outlets used the tawdry 13-minute video created by a tiny handful of fringe Christian extremists to create a disgusting caricature of all Christians - and all Americans - in Muslim minds. But too few Americans realize how frequently American Christian media personalities in the U.S. similarly prejudice their hearers’ minds with mirror-image stereotypes of Muslims.

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Meanwhile, many who are pastors and leaders in evangelicalism hide their heads in the current issue of Christianity Today or World Magazine, acting as if the kinds of people who host Islamophobic sentiments swim in a tiny sidestream, not in the mainstream, of our common heritage. I wish that were true.

The events of this past week, if we let them, could mark a turning point - a hitting bottom, if you will - in the complicity of evangelicalism in Islamophobia. If enough evangelicals watch or try to watch the film trailer that has sparked such outrage in the Middle East, they may move beyond the tipping point.

I tried to watch it, but I couldn’t make it halfway to the 13-minute mark. Everything about it was tawdry, pathetic, even pornographic. All but the most fundamentalist believers from my evangelical Christian tribe who watch that video will be appalled and ashamed to be associated with it.

It is hate speech. It is no different from the anti-Semitic garbage that has been all too common in Western Christian history. It is sub-Christian - beneath the dignity of anyone with a functioning moral compass.

Islamophobic evangelical Christians - and the neo-conservative Catholics and even some Jewish folks who are their unlikely political bedfellows of late - must choose.

Will they press on in their current path, letting Islamophobia spread even further amongst them? Or will they stop, rethink and seek to a more charitable approach to our Muslim neighbors? Will they realize that evangelical religious identity is under assault, not by Shariah law, not by the liberal media, not by secular humanism from the outside, but by forces within the evangelical community that infect that religious identity with hostility?

If I could get one message through to my evangelical friends, it would be this: The greatest threat to evangelicalism is evangelicals who tolerate hate and who promote hate camouflaged as piety.

No one can serve two masters. You can’t serve God and greed, nor can you serve God and fear, nor God and hate.

The broad highway of us-them thinking and the offense-outrage-revenge reaction cycle leads to self-destruction. There is a better way, the way of Christ who, when reviled, did not revile in return, who when insulted, did not insult in return, and who taught his followers to love even those who define themselves as enemies.

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Yes, “they” – the tiny minority of Muslims who turn piety into violence – have big problems of their own. But the way of Christ requires all who claim to be Christians to examine our own eyes for planks before trying to perform first aid on the eyes of others. We must admit that we have our own tiny minority whose message and methods we have not firmly, unitedly and publicly repudiated and rejected.

To choose the way of Christ is not appeasement. It is not being a “sympathizer.”

The way of Christ is a gentle strength that transcends the vicious cycles of offense-outrage-revenge.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Brian D. McLaren.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Islam • Opinion

soundoff (8,500 Responses)
  1. Jim Berg

    Hmmm, first, no one is saying that all Muslims are evil. It is quite clear, though, that some Islamists are willing to kill any Americans for what one American or a small group of Americans say. An angry mob of Muslims killed one of our ambassadors and the people defending him. We don't have angry mobs attacking all the embassies of countries with Islamists in them, do we? We're not even standing outside their embassies protesting.

    If anyone has a right to angry, violent protests, we have it, but we don't. That says a lot about who we are, and their protests say a lot about what they are.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Bill Stevens

      Well said !

      September 17, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • goodasyours

      well spoken jim berg - it is time to open our eyes people

      September 17, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  2. Zargoth

    Just goes to show the unreal stupidity of all religions.......

    September 17, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • goodasyours

      not all - just islamists

      September 17, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  3. jay

    Islam is the problem, stop blaming everyone else for the worldwide hate it spews.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  4. stephen douglas

    McLaren, you are exactly what the Islamic leadership looks for – a sheep to advance their cause. You are so out of touch.

    Say bahhhhh, and go back in the corner, or bury your head in the sand. Because of you and your ilk, the enemy will be able to get a foothold here.

    Naive fool.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • timinfla

      islaaam is a cancer- it is a religion of violence and hate

      September 17, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  5. Gene

    Muslims could do themselves a great favor by objecting loudly to the radical Muslim actions. Silence indicates to the rest of us that you condone the violence. I have seen some leaders express their objections but not many.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Shi

      Hello Gene,

      I am a Muslim, and I object very loudy from the behavior of a small group of uneducated people who dont know any better. I fyou actaully open your eyez you will see many muslims " loudly" objecting, so please stop generalizing.... also.... ALSO i would like to point out it is not fair to ask a group of people to apologize for what a smaller group does when they had nothing to do with it.... go educate yourself

      September 17, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • Bill Stevens

      Hello Shi,

      This isn't a small group of people. This is THOUSANDS of people, in 15 different countries. And no, not everyone is responsible for what they do. The point is that a significant fraction of the Muslim world belongs to the "Death to the Dhimmi" crowd, and you cannot blame this on just a few people. It is endemic to all the Wahabbi Summi muslims, and to a significant portion of the Shia.

      Embrace Christ as the Savior of the World, full of grace and peace, and reject following the violent and terrible deeds of Islam.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  6. Kim

    Congratulations CNN for giving the terrorist a new target.....I guess you thought it was more important to "out" the man who exercised his free speech than it was to condemn the coordinated attacks on the anniversary of 9/11...who do you think is buying your line of reasoning?.......This truly is a new low......and I didn't think you could sink any lower.....who knew.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • So

      Islam is good and peaceful.

      Unless you say otherwise in which case we will kill you.
      ~~~
      Imagine if America rioted every time one of them burned a bible...

      September 17, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • goodasyours

      they will be after you next cnn

      September 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  7. John Henson

    What a colossal load of garbage. CNN ought to be more responsible than to allow this kind of refuse on its webpages.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  8. Alicia

    CNN loves these kinds of articles that "pick" at religion at large and since CNN is Pro NWO, we know where they stand anyway.

    Whats the sense of writing about anything as a "filler"?.. thats all it amounts to.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  9. SugarKube

    Islamophobia? Are you serious? We aren't the ones doing the suicide bombing.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  10. 5875hrs

    I don't have a problem with Islamic people, they constantly prove what they are about everytime they burn an American Flag, Screeam Death to America, Storm our embassies and Kill our people. Slam planes into the World Trade Towers, Pentagon and The field in PA. Send out anthrax letters, Bomb U.S. War Ship (U.S.S. Cole), Blow up Militay Installations (KOBAR TOWERS) and The Marines Barracks in Lebanon, Bomb threats on College campus (U.T. Austin and NorthDakota State), Hijack Airplanes, kill it's passengers, shoot down planes (Flight 800) YEA no reason to be ISLAMICPHOBIC

    September 17, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  11. Nick

    Articles like this gives me hopw again that there will be peace again in this world. People like McLaren will only make this world a better place to leave. Thank you Mr. McLaren for your courage.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  12. Believer

    I've got an idea . . . why don't you write an article about all the horrible untruths etc that are being spread and said by Americans about American Christians ?????

    September 17, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • goodasyours

      that won't fit the lib lefts template - i'm tired of taking it for the team

      September 17, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • ORLY

      I'll bite: Which untruths?
      The crusades?
      The KKK?
      The christians who kill women's clinic workers?
      The christians who rant endlessly at the burials of our dead service people?
      The christians who drive around in minivans plastered with photoshopped cut-up dolls (posing as aborted children)?
      The christians who have posted on this very comment stream that ALL Muslims are (fill in the blank)?

      September 17, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Believer

      okay orly, how about all that crap you just associated with me because I am a Christian. Shall I associate all psycho killers with you because you are a human being. Exactly what I am talking about.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  13. Lily

    Hey CNN. How about hearing the other side of the story for a change. Your pro-Islam bias is sickening. How about inviting Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch org. to give a counter opinion to this drivel.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • Shi

      Hey Lily, How about you stop believing everything you hear from Dumb people who claim to know all about a religion that billions of people around the world follow devoutly and go to your local mosque and learn for yourself... im quite sure you would feel very stupid about what you thought you know islam is all about

      September 17, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  14. Edge

    The west has extremists – these extremitsts draw cartoons and make videos.

    The muslims have extremists – these extremists attack and kill innocent people.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  15. steve_schoner

    The last 5 paragraphs at the close of this article hits the nail on the head. Follow Christ, do what He would do. Yet history is full of terrible things done by Christians in his name. The had ears but did not listen, and horrific actions followed all in His name.

    But the fact is that Islam radicals have declared war on the West, western ideas, religion, anything that the deem "anti-Islamic." Democracy, as we understand it is an affront to them. Free Speech is something incompatible with Islamic religion.

    If there are any so called "moderates" in that religion, why is it that they don't stand up and take control of their radicals?

    And the fact is that this so called "minority": in the Islamic faith has put the entire world on edge. I essence we are already involved in WWIII, And when another major attack mushrooms in a mushroom cloud over one of our cities, then it will be a hot war for sure.

    That is what I fear, and those so called "moderates" in the Islamic world should fear it as well.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  16. Mike the American

    I am all for hearing many sides but CNN is deep in the counsel of the enemy (and I don't mean liberals even here).

    September 17, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • Alicia

      Amen to that Mike..

      CNN is the devils carrier pigeon.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  17. Scott

    Give me a break. It's not Christians that are burning, killing and pillaging
    !

    September 17, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • Ciscokid

      AMEN!

      September 17, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Mike

      hi, but it is Christian who killed 20 million people in World Wars. It is Christians who colonized otehr countries killing millions, it is Christians who did Abu Grib and mascres in Afganistan ...

      September 17, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • Shi

      Scott which time period have you lived in? Christians have committed 20 times worse atrocities than Muslims have....

      September 17, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • goodasyours

      amen too

      September 17, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  18. Bill

    I think the writer had to stack several soapboxes to get a high enough perch to write this article. It seems he is working through his angst at his unhappiness with his upbringing.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  19. Alison

    Easy for a man to write this. Try being a woman in an Islamist country. Islam is more than a religion. It is an idealogy. An ideology that is against women at every turn.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  20. MR_K

    Brian McLaren has officially left this reality and is orbiting Jupiter. What a cheap shot for McLaren to attack the Christian center he despises so heavily in an attempt to make people like him. If you've read his other books you know what I'm talking about.

    Someone earlier said it. The film was made by a Jewish American, the Muslim countries responded by hating on America and out of it all McLaren somehow thinks Christians are to blame.

    I wonder if McLaren remembers that the World i full of hate and nobody is exempt from being at fault.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • evinar

      ....you haven't been keeping up.

      The guy that made the video was positively NOT Jewish. He was a Coptic Christian, originally from Egypt, who used a pseudonym and fabricated lies about this alias's religion.

      So now you know where the criticism of Christianity is coming from. People are so afraid of extremist Muslims, but the reason that we haven't had any repeats of 9/11 that, by chance, are successful, is a simple one – there are as many Muslim extremists as there are OTHER extremists. It's just that while Christians are 'unfairly criticized', many Arab peoples are unfairly invaded, bombed, and extorted for their resources by rich countries, sold out by their own governments.

      They have every reason to be angry.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.